Home > Talents & Glyphs, Tanking > Protection Warrior Leveling Specs

Protection Warrior Leveling Specs

One thing I’ve noticed a lot when talking to or just inspecting newer protection warriors is a lack of perspective on their talent trees. This is only to be expected, of course – no one goes into a new class with a complete understanding of how it ticks. The surprising thing is that, with exceptions, the people who did some research into their specs are among the worst off. They’ll read a guide that tells them for example that Improved Revenge and maxing Shield Specialization are optional, and that Toughness and Anticipation are mandatory; and though this is certainly true at level 80, a level 24 warrior specced into 5/5 Anticipation and 5/5 Toughness is making life a lot harder for himself than it needs to be.

A leveling spec is a work in progress, and what’s best for the spec at any given moment may not be what’s best for the spec in the long run. New levels bring changes to your abilities, talents, playstyle and gear, and your speccing priorities should change with them. It’s important to take into account not just what will be good at level 80, but also what’s good right now.

I’ll be addressing talent allocation 5 points at a time, and noting when you get major game-changing abilities. I’ll also be addressing the optimal build with infinite respecs, as well as a build without respecs (and with only one re-glyphing) for the less well-off. Images are of the infinite respecs build.

Talents from level 10 to 22Levels 1-14

Game-changing trainable abilities

Level 6: Thunder Clap
Level 10: Defensive Stance, Bloodrage, Sunder Armor, Taunt
Level 12: Shield Bash
Level 14: Revenge


Improved Thunder Clap – 3/3
Infinite respecs – Improved Bloodrage – 2/2
Single build – Shield Specialization – 2/5


The first big problem you’re going to have as a low-level tank is AoE threat, so since the improvement talent to your big threat generator is on the first level, you’ll want to max it out ASAP. In fact, improved Thunder Clap is usually a superior threat generator to Sunder Armor even on single targets, so this is an all-around win.

At this level, your block, dodge, and parry chances are low enough that you’ll get more rage out of Bloodrage used on cooldown than out of 2 points in Shield Specialization. This will change once you get the ability Shield Block at level 16, and talent into Shield Mastery.

The two points in Shield Specialization (for the no-respecs crowd) are to augment the level 14 ability Revenge. At max rank, Shield Specialization ensures that you will always have the rage for Revenge whenever it procs, no matter what. Though we only have 2 points to spare at this point, we can get a good start on maxing the talent.

Levels 15-19

Game-changing trainable abilities

Level 16: Shield Block

GlyphsResonating Power - Thunder Clap

Level 15: Major

Infinite respecs: Resonating Power
Single build: Revenge

Level 15: Minor

Thunder Clap


Incite – 3/3
Infinite respecs – Shield Specialization – 2/5
Single build – Shield Specialization – 4/5


Incite augments your Thunder Clap further, the Glyph of Thunder Clap improves its range, and the Glyph of Resonating Power reduces its rage cost to a mere 11 rage, less than Sunder Armor.

By glyphing Revenge you greatly increase the number of heroic strikes you can afford – and these are also greatly improved by Incite. At this point Revenge will be your second highest priority after Thunder Clap on AoE, and your highest priority on single target, so you’ll be using it a lot. When you max the talent Improved Revenge at level 21-22, Revenge will become your highest priority in groups of 3 or fewer, after aggro has been established by Thunder Clap of course.

Revenge - Thunder Clap | Resonating PowerLevels 20-24

Game-changing trainable abilities

Level 20: Cleave
Level 20: Retaliation
Level 20: Stance Mastery


Level 24 – Infinite respecs: Replace Resonating Power with Revenge


Last Stand – 1/1
Shield Mastery – 2/2
Infinite respecs – Improved Bloodrage – 0/2
Infinite respecs – Shield Specialization – 4/5
Improved Revenge – 2/2

Comments0/2 - 5/5 - 3/3 | 3/3 - 3/5 | 1/1 - 2/2 - 2/2 - 0/5 | 0/2 - 0/2 - 3/3 | 0/2 - 1/1 - 2/2 | 5/5

Last Stand is a great talent for instance tanking: it’s a cooldown that gives the healer more time to heal you, helping you survive through otherwise deadly situations (healer cc, lag, multiple enemy crits, etc). Its application to soloing is nonexistent until level 75, when you get Enraged Regeneration. If you’re planning to level mostly by soloing, feel free to leave it out.

Since 3.3, Improved Revenge is amazing, especially backed up by the low-cooldown Shield Block Shield Mastery provides, and if you’re going the infinite-respec route, this is where you want to spec your build back to Shield Specialization and Glyph of Revenge.

Levels 25-29

Game-changing trainable abilities

Level 28: Shield Wall


Shield Specialization – 5/5
Infinite respecs – Puncture – 3/3
Infinite respecs – Anticipation – 1/5
Single build – Anticipation – 4/5


Puncture is only good until level 40, when you get Shield Slam eating up another GCD per rotation, nearly halving the GCDs Puncture applies to.

Other than that, these 5 levels of talents are not going to help your threat or your survivability much at your current gear levels. Fill out Shield Specialization, then Anticipation, as unlike Toughness it not only reduces your damage taken, but also gives you more chances to proc Revenge.

Levels 30-34

Game-changing trainable abilities

Level 32: Berserker Rage


Level 30: Major

Infinite respecs: Glyph of Resonating Power
Single build: Wait until level 40.


Gag Order – 2/2
Concussion Blow – 1/1
Infinite respecs – Anticipation 3/5
Single build – Anticipation 5/5
Single build – Toughness 1/5


Gag Order will help a lot with packs of mobs with multiple casters, as you can silence one and kite it over to the other, to catch them both within Thunder Clap’s range. Concussion Blow is a handy CC ability which you can use to temporarily ease your incoming damage from a particularly hard-hitting mob. Especially of note, some vanilla bosses are susceptible to Concussion Blow, as stuns were less common when they were designed, and they have for the most part not been retuned to take the increased presence of stuns into account.

Levels 35-39


One-Handed Weapon Specialization – 5/5

This talent completely negates the damage-dealt penalty from Defensive Stance whenever you wielding a one-handed weapon – which you should be at all times (unless you’ve been disarmed).

Level 40-44

Game-changing trainable abilities

Level 40: Shield Slam

Revenge - Thunder Clap | Blocking - ChargeGlyphs

Level 40 – Infinite respecs: Replace Resonating Power with Blocking.
Level 40 – Single build: Blocking


Infinite respecs – Puncture – 0/3
Infinite respecs – Anticipation – 5/5
Infinite respecs – Toughness – 1/5
Improved Defensive Stance – 2/2
Vigilance – 1/1
Focused Rage – 2/3
Arms: 3/3 - 5/5 - 0/2 | 2/2 - 0/3 - 0/3 | 0/2 - 0/1 - 2/2 - 3/3 | Prot: 0/2 - 5/5 - 3/3 | 3/3 - 5/5 | 1/1 - 2/2 - 2/2 - 3/5 | 0/2 - 0/2 - 0/3 | 0/2 - 1/1 - 2/2 | 5/5 | 2/2 - 1/1 - 3/3 | 3/3 - 0/2 | 1/1 - 1/1 - 3/3 | 3/3 - 2/2 | 1/1


If you’re going the infinite-respec route, level 40’s Shield Slam is the catalyst to bring you back onto the single-build tree. At this point, Sunder Armor filler is barely worth the rage you spend on it; and Shield Slam is fairly epic. We’ve already passively increased its damage with independently good talents such as Gag Order and Shield Mastery, and it’s only going to be buffed further – starting with the Glyph of Blocking, the only warrior glyph which increases both survivability and threat.

Level 45-49


Vitality – 3/3
Focused Rage – 3/3
Toughness – 2/5

All fairly straightforward here.

Level 50-54


Level 50: Minor

Glyph of Charge


Warbringer – 1/1
Devastate – 1/1
Critical Block – 3/3


This is an important level bracket, when you get not one but two game-changing talents. I placed Warbringer above Devastate because of the sheer fun of it. Trust me, putting off Devastate for a level is worth it.

Level 55-59

GlyphsDevastate - Thunderclap | Blocking - Charge | Cleaving - Command

Level 57 – Replace Revenge with Devastate.


Sword and Board – 3/3
Damage Shield – 1/2
Infinite respecs – Damage Shield – 2/2
Single build – Toughness – 3/5


Upon talenting Sword and Board, I would also recommend a switch from Glyph of Revenge to Glyph of Devastate for both single-build and infinite-respec paths. The free Shield Slams are going to be quite noticeable in your rage management – you’ll be able to afford Heroic Strikes and Cleaves more often than before even [i]without[/i] the Glyph of Revenge. And stacking 2 sunders at a time means that you have to spend fewer GCDs on Devastate when you could be using free, procced Shield Slams – while at the same time increasing the threat of Devastate when you do use it.

Level 60-64


Shockwave – 1/1
Improved Heroic Strike – 3/3
Deflection – 1/5


Improved Heroic Strike backs up the switch away from Glyph of Revenge, reducing Heroic Strike’s cost yet further.

Level 65-69


Deflection – 2/5
Improved Charge – 2/2
Deflection – 4/5


With Warbringer and Improved Charge, you can start out every fight with a comfortable amount of rage.

Level 70-74

Game-changing trainable abilities

Level 70: Intervene
Level 71: Shattering Throw


Level 70: Minor

Glyph of Command


Deflection – 5/5
Impale – 2/2
Deep Wounds – 2/3


Impale and Deep Wounds are the icing on prot warriors’ tasty threat cake, making the crit chance bonuses of Incite and Critical Block that much sweeter.

Level 75-80

Game-changing trainable abilities

Level 75: Enraged Regeneration
Level 80: Heroic Throw


Level 80: Major

Glyph of Cleaving


Deep Wounds – 3/3
Toughness – 5/5
Infinite respecs – Damage Shield – 1/2
Armored to the Teeth – 3/3

Arms: 3/3 - 5/5 - 0/2 | 2/2 - 0/3 - 0/3 | 0/2 - 0/1 - 2/2 - 3/3 | Fury: 3/3 - 0/2 - 0/5 | Prot: 0/2 - 5/5 - 3/3 | 3/3 - 5/5 | 1/1 - 2/2 - 2/2 - 5/5 | 0/2 - 0/2 - 0/3 | 0/2 - 1/1 - 2/2 | 5/5 | 2/2 - 1/1 - 3/3 | 3/3 - 0/2 | 1/1 - 1/1 - 3/3 | 3/3 - 1/2 | 1/1

Button’s Recommended Level 80 Heroics Spec


We’ve left the talents which scale with armor to last primarily because, at lower levels, they didn’t have much armor to scale with. If you went the infinite respec route, you’ll want to take a point out of Focused Rage to put into Armored to the Teeth. Don’t worry, you’re going to be just fine on rage.

Glyph of Cleaving is an obvious choice for 5-man instances and raid trash, which is the content new 80s will be running. When transitioning to raiding you will probably want to do some respeccing and reglyphing, but that’s beyond the scope of this guide.

  1. arbington
    August 28, 2010 at 5:42 pm

    Thank you for this! When I resume leveling my war again I’ll definitely be coming back here. Maybe now I’ll win those threat battles with recalcitrant feral druids.

  2. September 1, 2010 at 10:29 am

    Great stuff. I will say though that Shockwave was a game changer for me.
    It is critical for all classes while leveling to be on the lookout for game changing new abilities and be ready to shift your play style to match. I was leveling my pally recently with RAF. You get levels so fast it is easy to miss things. I completely changed my rotation while in an instance when I noticed several abilities I did not know I had picked up several levels back :P

    That is probably one of the biggest ‘not obvious’ things about the game. The way certain abilities are simply obsoleted as you level up and progress down a tree. Just about every time I have discovered I was doing something wrong and needed to replace an ability it was well after the point where I SHOULD have made that transition. Sometimes much later. The game simply does not make such things obvious.

    • September 1, 2010 at 11:57 am

      Oh, shockwave is definitely a game-changer. I guess I didn’t say it, but the “Game-changing abilities” was meant for “abilities you get through training, not talenting.” I shall rename those sections.

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: